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Veterinarian Learning About Cancer From Old Dogs

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By Michael Morton For

HOLLISTON, Mass. – On the Old Grey Muzzle Tour, Bort might challenge for the title of spryest pup around.

Named after a “Simpsons” gag – Bart can’t quite find the right name tag at the amusement park gift shop – Bort is a Rottweiler, a breed that typically lives to age 9. But the Underwood Street dog turns 14 at the end of the month and shows no signs of slowing down.

“Some of these dogs are quite frail,” said David Waters, a Purdue University research veterinarian and head of the affiliated Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation in Indiana. “Bort is quite robust.”

Waters recently kicked off a 23-day tour to meet the nation’s 15 oldest known Rottweilers, a whirlwind medical research mission dubbed the Old Grey Muzzle Tour.

At the Murphy foundation, Waters and other scientists look at age-related cancers, tapping the field of comparative oncology to discover useful similarities and differences between species.

Waters is also examining the physiology behind successful aging, with the expectation that choices at a young age can play a crucial role much later.

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